Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 285 - (01/10/04)
In Tajikistan, where a Moscow-backed secular government beat
an Islamic opposition in a civil war in the 1990s, local media have said they
have come under pressure in the run-up to a parliamentary election early next
With the exception of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, the former boss of a
Soviet state farm, all Central Asian leaders started political life taking
direct orders from the Kremlin.
And despite nearby China's growing importance, they still look to Moscow for
political direction. Opposition politicians say there is a gentleman's agreement
throughout the former Soviet bloc to recognise each other's votes, however
OSCE rep in Dushanbe
An important condition for development of civil society is the right of all mass
media to get information regardless of their political orientation, OSCE
representative for freedom of media Miklos Harasti has noted. Harasti was a
notable dissident in Communist Hungary.
Addressing the 6th Central Asian conference on mass media opening in
Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, on September 22nd, he stressed that the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe shares concern of
journalists about the state of freedom of media in Central Asia and attempts of
state officials to pressure independent editions.
Representatives of non-state mass media from Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan took part in the discussion.
The OSCE and Tajikistan's Association of Independent Journalists, who organized
the conference, expressed regret that journalists from Turkmenistan stayed away
from it. Orators agreed that governmental censorship had mounted an offensive on
freedom of speech, carrying it out in different guises. Tajikistan was cited as
example, where several opposition papers were closed before parliamentary
elections scheduled for February.
Independent journalist Marat Mamadshoyev said members of the media had twice
addressed Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov with a request "to put an end
to arbitrariness of functionaries". They got no satisfactory answer.
NGOs in deep trouble
In Tajikistan, Soros' OSI is facing problems less than six months ahead of the
parliamentary elections. The chairwoman of the organization in Tajikistan,
Oynihol Bobonazarova, says the trouble just started.
"Up until 14 September, we didn't feel pressure from either the government
or the state media. But all of the sudden all the government newspapers printed
baseless articles that has forced us to re-evaluate our situation,"
Such articles have included accusations that the OSI in Tajikistan is corrupt.
Lupis of the CPJ says Central Asian governments might be worried about a repeat
of the events in Georgia last November, when the so-called Rose Revolution
toppled the regime.
"There is some sensitivity to what happened in Georgia at the end of 2003
where independent media and NGOs did play quite an influential role in ousting
Georgia's authoritarian and corrupt leader Eduard Shevardnadze out of
office," Lupis said
Former guerrilla attacks police station
An armed confrontation in the mountains of eastern Tajikistan has been
linked to wider tensions between the government and former opposition
In the remote town of Tajikabad, 120 kilometres from the capital Dushanbe,
police on September 2 arrested Yeribek "the Sheikh" Ibrahimov and 20
other men accused of launching an attack on the local police station and the
nearby prosecution service building.
Police said a lieutenant was killed and another police officer injured when five
men raked the buildings with machine-gun fire and fired grenades at them on the
night of August 27-28. Interior Minister Humdin Sharipov told journalists that
Ibrahimov was arrested on suspicion he led the attackers.
When Ibrahimov was arrested, police also seized a cache of weapons which - if
the reports are to be believed - could have equipped a small army. The arms
found hidden in a cave included a multiple rocket launcher, 15 anti-tank and
anti-aircraft missile systems, and assorted light weapons and ammunition.
The "Sheikh" used to be a guerrilla commander with the United Tajik
Opposition, UTO, which fought a five-year conflict with the government ending in
1997. Under a peace deal, paramilitary forces were supposed to have disarmed and
returned to civilian life. Interior ministry figures say Ibrahimov told them
that the arms cache dates to the civil war years, but that some of the weapons
may also have been left behind by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group
which mounted raids into Uzbek border regions in 1999-2000.
Disturbing rise in police harrassment
Analysts in Dushanbe report a disturbing trend where police are harassing
former UTO guerrillas who were covered by a general amnesty when they laid down
their arms. It is reported that the principal objective is to extort money.
The government for its part says it is taking action against the few remaining
"illegal armed formations", in other words ex-UTO combatants who
either failed to disarm or have reformed their units. Only a few dozen
kilometres down the Rasht valley from Tajikabad, the authorities are combing the
mountains in search of another former guerrilla chieftain, Ahmadbek Safarov, who
is reportedly hiding out with 30 men.
Wider political implications
The Tajikabad clash has also had repercussions on national politics. Rumours
circulating in Dushanbe say the upsurge in trouble in the Rasht valley is the
work of Mahmudruzi Iskandarov, the leader of the Democratic Party. The rumours
appear to be based on government leaks.
The Democratic Party was a minor partner in the UTO which was dominated by the
Islamic Rebirth Party. After disarming, both now operate legally and will
contest next year's parliamentary elections.
Iskandarov comes from Tajikabad, and during the conflict he was Ibrahimov's
superior in the guerrilla force which dominated this area. He is said to retain
considerable political support in the area.
Iskandarov himself made the transition from guerrilla commander to civilian
politician, and for a time headed Tajikistan's national gas company. His sacking
from the post late last year was seen as part of a wider trend in which the
authorities were reneging on the spirit of the peace agreement by quietly
removing opposition people from their posts.
The opposition politician is currently in Moscow, but his deputy Rahmatullo
Valiev told IWPR, "We are concerned that recently there have been various
rumours spread about Mahmadruzi Iskandarov."
Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, a leading figure in the IRP was more forthcoming,
describing the rumours as a deliberate smear by the government. "By
disseminating this false report, the authorities are trying to discredit
Iskandarov ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, by blaming him for
all the negative trends seen in the Rasht group of districts," he said.
After Iskandarov was removed as head of the gas company, he went off to
Tajikabad to consult with his supporters there. In April, President Rahmonov
made an effort to court him, by meeting him and offering him another job.
Although Iskandarov turned the post down, relations between the two men appeared
to thaw, but they worsened again in June after Iskandarov publicly criticised a
new election law for discriminating against opposition parties.
Iskandarov's critical stance, says Saifullozoda, is the reason why the
authorities are seeking to destroy his reputation by implying that he might one
day muster an armed force against them, "It is obvious they want to put
pressure on the Democratic Party leader and clear him out of their way."
Iran to allocate US$150Mln for Tajik hydroelectric power plant
Iran will allocate US$150 million to finish the construction of Tajikistan's
hydroelectric power plant, Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, said at a news
conference in Dushanbe, recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
"US$150 million have been envisioned for this project," said Khatami,
who was on an official visit to Tajikistan. He expressed hope that "this
project will be completed with the assistance of Russia and Tajikistan."
Commenting on the financing of the Sangtuda hydroelectric power plant, Tajik
President Emomali Rakhmonov, who also attended the news conference, said that
Iran accounts for 51% of the overall funds invested in the project, while the
remaining 49% belong to Russia and other countries that will help finish the
The construction of the Sangtuda facility, 100 kilometers south of Dushanbe,
started in 1987, and the project was mothballed following the disintegration of
the Soviet Union. The hydroelectric power plant is expected to have a capacity
of 670 Megawatt, and its output will cover the country's deficit of 4 billion
kilowatt hours of electricity during winter periods. It will also make it
possible to considerably increase electricity exports to Iran and Russia via
Uzbekistan and Kazakstan at low prices.
One kilowatt hour of electricity to be generated by the Tajik facility will cost
US$0.0024, and it is planned to complete the project within the next four years.
Rahkmonmov meets with Japanese foreign minister
Issues of bilateral cooperation and international problems were discussed at the
meeting on August 31st, between Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi and
Tajik President, Emomali Rakhmonov, in Dushanbe. The Tajik president looked upon
Kawaguchi's visit as "a favourable opportunity to further develop bilateral
relations," Rakhmonov's press secretary, Abdufattokh Sharipov, said,
Interfax News Agency reported.
Rakhmonov noted, "Tajikistan highly values the help and support of the
Japanese government." Over the last several years, many Tajik specialists
have undergone training in Japan. "The grants allocated by the Japanese
government played a significant role in the improvement of the education,
ecology, healthcare, transport and water supply spheres," Sharipov said.
During the negotiations, the sides named precious metals processing and mountain
tourism as the most promising areas of cooperation.
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